May 1st, 2008
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I started off this two part series last Thursday with a discussion on things I did like about the movie. I needed to start out with the positives for a few reasons. I’m a generally positive person so it’s just in my nature to start off with good things. And, on a totally negative note, there were less positives for me to discuss and so I thought they deserved the limelight of first nod.

Truth be told, while I didn’t hate the movie, there were many, many things that bothered me on different levels. Some were deeply personal levels as the movie had many parallels to my own adoption story. (For example, my best friend? Who was present at the labor? Is named Leah. Yeah, weird, right?) Some were annoyances for the broader scope of the adoption world. And so, thirteen things that either upset me personally or ticked me off in general.

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1. The China comment. If you’ve adopted from China or you know anything about adopting from China, you know that the process is a little more different than this quote makes it out to be.

You should’ve gone to China, you know, ’cause I hear they give away babies like free iPods. You know, they pretty much just put them in those t-shirt guns and shoot them out at sporting events.

Oof. Some parents who have adopted children from China spoke out about their distaste for the comment. Furthermore, while portraying China adoption in a totally unrealistic light, I think it also comes back to the, “Avoid the birth mom, go international,” mindset. While every family should be free to adopt in a way that works best for them, I don’t like the “avoid the birth mom” mind set. Don’t base the reasons you do something on the assumed negativity of another group of people. Make your own choices, don’t blame another party.

2. “Kickin’ it Old Testament.” I understand, once again, that open adoption is not for every family. For various reasons, some birth families choose closed adoptions. However, I don’t believe it’s a real choice if the options of openness (or, vice versa, closed adoptions) are not investigated. There were no discussions of pros and cons of either option. The importance that a birth mother can play in the life of her relinquished child were not discussed. The lawyer jumped on the chance that this would be a closed adoption and the family didn’t pose an argument. (Though, I wonder, if the letter on the wall in the final scenes was an indicator that, perhaps, the relationship was to be more open than we expected. I think not, of course, but my heart always hopes in situations like that one.)

3. Oh, the adoptive mother. Now, don’t get me wrong. Jennifer Garner’s acting was fabulous here. And while I know adoptive mothers like Vanessa (the character) do exist, it still made me feel ick-and-angry inside. She was distant. She was snobby. She was judgmental in tone and demeanor. She was desperate (OH-so-desperate) for a child… so much so that she got down on her knees and talked to Juno’s belly… in the middle of a crowded mall. At home? Sure, fine. In the middle of a mall? Ick. And I’m sure that’s the point of this character, to embody the desperate nature of some adoptive parents. And while I don’t fault the writer (whom I still do not like one bit) for showing a portion of adoption that isn’t rosy and nice, it still didn’t leave me feeling good. I don’t particularly like that part of adoption. I didn’t like how Juno was treated as nothing more than an incubator by Vanessa. And yet, I know it happens. But I don’t have to like it in real life or in the movie.

4. Oh, the adoptive father. So many things were wrong here. Again, I guess I have to applaud the author for showing that some adoptive parents aren’t on the same page when it comes to adopting a child. (That said, some parents in general aren’t on the same page when it comes to adding to their family in any way, not just adoption.) But, again, that doesn’t mean that the whole idea sat well with me. To be honest, I didn’t think of things like this when I was a placing mother. I was young and naive. I thought that if a couple was trying to adopt, they both desperately wanted children. I never considered that one party or the other might have huge misgivings about children in general. Again, while it’s probably good that some people are seeing that fact, it still just made me sad in general. Furthermore, the entire relationship between he and Juno was icky at best. No further comment needed.

5. Juno’s emotions were subtext. If you haven’t placed a child been through an adoption with a visible birth mother, you may have missed Juno’s anguish. You may have missed her heartfelt moments. You may have thought that her sarcastic nature was normal and not a defense mechanism. And that’s the rub, really. The people who really needed to see that Juno did love this child and that she did care about its well-being mistook her sarcasm and general demeanor for a lack of caring. It’s sad that she wasn’t written in with some more powerful, visible emotions. It might have helped the movie along for many, many people.

6. Oh. Oh. The cussing. I’ve been known to cuss when I stub my toe. But that’s about it anymore. And I understand the movie was written for a younger demographic but, goodness gracious, the cussing really took away from the movie for me. Be creative. I think writers who use cussing as a way to express something aren’t very good at coming up with clever ideas to show emotions.

7. Would a girl as smart as Juno seems to be from her quick wit and general demeanor really have unprotected sex? Okay, so, well, I did. And I’m smart. And maybe that’s the point: smart, quick-witted girls get pregnant, too. But something didn’t sit right with me on this point. I just wanted to yell, “Use a condom!”

8. Uh? Did the father have ANY rights? My heart broke for Paulie, the baby’s biological father. He was not involved in the selection of parents. The interviewing of said parents. The pregnancy in any real way. And yes, some of that is true to life. But in this day in age, when Dr. Phil is even acknowledging the flawed system that father’s are forced to fight, couldn’t someone have said, “Hey, let’s at least have this father meet the family and approve?” Instead, he was just pushed aside. Maybe it was his choice. Maybe it wasn’t. But it still sucked for biological fathers who fight tooth and nail for a chance to raise their children.

9. Why weren’t further issues explored? Didn’t anyone else sit up and wonder, knowing the basis of the movie since it had been shoved down our throats for months before its initial release, if the abandonment by her biological mother left Juno with some deep-seeded beliefs about how easy motherhood is to “let go of” or some other similar train of thought? Why mention it at all if you’re not going to explore it? I think THAT might have saved the movie. Instead of just showing a teen who “doesn’t care” (though, as I said, she had emotions they were just hard to recognize if you haven’t been there, done that), why not explore how the actions of our families can influence us as children in ways we don’t fully understand. Actually, I thought there were a lot of underlying issues that weren’t explored that could have saved this movie. That’s just one.

10. Predictable much? I mean, we all kind of knew what was going to happen. But I was still hoping that they wouldn’t choose the predictable ending and that they’d allow Juno to parent her baby. No such luck. I prefer movies that keep you guessing. There was no guessing. None. Juno didn’t even verbally revisit her decision in the hospital. Yes, tears were shed but there was no discussion about the pain and agony of the decision.

11. It was all too real for me. Even though it was not “real” in many concerns, I kept finding parallels and similarities to my story and eventually I just lost it. As Juno was giving birth, with her Stepmom and best friend at her side, I found myself sobbing uncontrollably. While I previously said that I liked the ending hospital scene, it was also so real for me that it hurt. And so, in a sense, I didn’t like it at the same time. Trust me, it’s possible.

12. This was so-much-so a teen movie. The uber-hip language. The aforementioned cussing. The list goes on. And as such, it annoyed the heck out of me as my age is now closer to old than it is to anything teen related. I did laugh at a few language choices but not many nor all.

13. The ending scene. Many people saw this as a “See, mothers can place babies and then go play the guitar with their boyfriends and everything is a-okay.” While the hospital scenes gave a wordless-voice to the internal dilemma that birth mothers face, this scene negated the progress that the previous ones made. I know that birth mothers don’t spend all day, everyday crying for years on end. We do have to live lives and sometimes that includes falling in love and maybe playing the guitar. But? I could have used one post-placement scene in which we see some grief, loss and healing. Skipping straight to healing doesn’t serve the public any good.

And so, those are thirteen things that I didn’t like about the movie. I think I’ve gotten all of my thoughts on the subject out for the time being. Feel free to compare posts and add whatever you’d like to the list of good-and-bad.

Anyone want to write a movie with me?

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For more on Juno, read these posts.

Photo Credit.

3 Responses to “Thursday Thirteen: Things I Didn’t Like About Juno”

  1. thomasina says:

    I agree on all counts (including writing the movie).

  2. Anonymous says:

    I just found your blog today, and it is interesting to read your review of Juno. I am an adoptive mother to a 5 month old boy, and I saw Juno shortly after we brought him home.

    We were not chosen by the birthmother until after he was born, so we didn’t go through the whole pregancy process like they show in the movie. This also means that it happened so fast we were still processing it when we saw the movie.

    The most difficult part of the movie was the hospital scene where Juno is crying. All I could picture is our son’s birthmother, and my heart broke as I thought about what she had just gone through (and continues to go through).

    Since the day we brought him home, I’ve been telling my son about his birthmother and how much she loves him. I have her picture in his little Who Loves Baby? book because I want her to be a part of his life. We send letters and pictures as part of our agreement, but we haven’t heard back from her. I’m hoping that someday we’ll hear back from her and that he’ll get to meet his siblings.

  3. Chromesthesia says:

    I kind of disliked the same things you disliked about the movie
    Not just because I read your list before seeing it either.
    Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but I’m afraid folks who see it will get the wrong idea about adoption and what it’s about.
    I doubt that it’s as simple as an ad in a paper. There are complicated emotions that were not covered in the film, perhaps because it is rather hip and cool.
    Mostly I was dismayed that the biological father of the child didn’t get to see his son. They seemed so depressingly detached from him to me.
    But I could see how Juno’s sacarcasm was hiding pain. The actress was really good at having a sort of pained expression despite the crude words.
    I also thought the potential adoptive parent should have gotten himself a set and spoke up about what he wanted instead of waiting until the process was started, but that was an interesting aspect of the movie.
    It’s a good movie about relationships, but not totally realistic about adoption in parts which is what I will tell my friend when I talk to her about it.

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